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Most furnaces last for 15 to 20 years with regular maintenance, so you’re probably buying your first new furnace. Heating equipment is one of the largest expenses for owners of Edgewater, Maryland, homes, so you should choose your new unit carefully. A new heater is a significant investment, and you’ll have to rely on your purchase to keep your family comfortable for a long time. The right system can also help you save money on your utility bills for several years. Here are some important questions you should ask when buying a new furnace.

How Large Should the Furnace Be?

Many contractors will replace your furnace with a new unit that has the same capacity or estimate the best size furnace for your home. Either of these methods can easily make the new furnace too big, which wastes energy and costs more money, or too small, which doesn’t heat your home well. Systems that are too large or too small often break down sooner.

Griffith Energy Services performs a Manual J load calculation instead. This standard HVAC industry formula uses a long list of details, including the number of square feet in your home, the amount of shade around your home, the amount of insulation, the types of building materials, the number of occupants, and the number of windows. A technician will inspect your home for a correct Manual J load calculation.

How Is Efficiency Measured?

Furnace manufacturers try to make units that burn fuel efficiently and don’t need much energy to run the blowers or fans that circulate heat. The standard measurement of fuel efficiency for furnaces is called an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency or AFUE rating. This is the percentage of fossil fuel that’s converted to usable heat per year. AFUE ratings range from 80 percent to 98.5 percent. All new furnaces must have a label with an AFUE rating and the furnace’s estimated annual operating costs under different conditions. This makes comparison shopping easier.

A more efficient furnace with a higher AFUE rating will be more expensive, but lower utility bills should make the investment worthwhile. The most efficient furnace you can afford is usually your most economical choice in the long run. Have your furnace inspected by a professional once per year to keep it efficient. All older systems will eventually become less efficient over time, but routine maintenance will help stall the decline.

What Types of Furnaces are Available?

Most central heating and cooling systems are split systems with a condenser, a furnace, and a coil that sits on top of the furnace. Packaged systems provide the same heating and cooling as split systems, but all the components fit in one indoor unit. That way, you can stay comfortable and enjoy more space in your attic or basement. Some packaged systems can be mounted on the roof as well.

A variable-speed furnace can change the speed of its blower as it distributes air through your home. It goes faster when the temperature is lower outside and slows down when the weather is milder. This keeps the temperature in your home more constant, saves energy, and reduces noise. A standard or fixed-speed blower simply turns on and off.

Natural gas furnaces are currently the least expensive way to heat your home when the weather is below freezing. Oil furnaces are also powerful heat sources, but they take up more space and pollute your indoor air more than natural gas. Oil or propane furnaces are good options in older homes without gas lines. Electric furnaces are more efficient than natural gas, oil, or propane, but producing heat from electricity is more expensive. Electric heat pumps are more economical because they transfer heat instead of producing it and can double as an AC unit. They act as air conditioners in summer as well as heaters in winter.

What Are the Best HVAC Accessories?

A humidifier uses a humidistat that controls the humidity in your home just like a thermostat controls the temperature. Furnaces often make indoor air too dry in fall and winter, causing cracks in hardwood floors, static electricity, dry skin, sore throats, frequent cold or flu symptoms, and aggravated asthma or allergies. You can have a professional install a whole-home humidifier inside your home’s ductwork or use a less expensive portable model on one or two rooms at a time.

Ultraviolet or UV lamps kill viruses, bacteria, mold, dust mites, and other pests by damaging their DNA. Air sterilization UV lamps fit inside your ductwork, and they only come on when your furnace’s blower is on, so they’re very efficient. They prevent mold growth, but dead mold spores can still make allergies and asthma worse. If you or any members of your family have respiratory problems, you should have an air purifier installed as well.

Air cleaners or air purifiers capture contaminants with high-quality air filters. The devices with the highest MERV or Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value can even remove some bacteria and viruses. You can choose a whole-home or portable unit, just like a humidifier. Some units use an electrical charge to kill mold and bacteria. The less expensive portable air purifiers have fans that make more noise than whole-home models, and they’re less efficient.

How Much Will Installation Cost?

The cost of a new furnace varies depending on the type of furnace, the capacity, add-on accessories, and the cost of installation. Installation usually takes about a day, but it can take up to a week if you replace your ductwork as well.

Standard natural gas or oil furnaces start at about $2,200, but they’re more expensive if you also need new ductwork. For most homes, installing ductwork costs another $1,000 to $5,000, including labor and materials. Additional HVAC accessories like a whole-home humidifier or air purifier will make your home more comfortable but will raise the total cost. You could also have extra expenses if you need to have an electrician upgrade your electrical panel to accommodate your new system.

A large home, a complex floor plan, or a more efficient unit can drive up the price as well. The most expensive furnaces are around $10,000, and many large homes or homes with more than one floor have two or more furnaces.

Your installer should be NATE-Certified like the technicians at Griffith Energy Services for a quality installation. You can save money by using a less experienced contractor, but errors in the installation could cause higher utility bills or expensive breakdowns. Investing in a more efficient furnace won’t help you save money if poor installation causes it to waste energy.

Is Maintenance Necessary?

Regular maintenance is necessary even for brand new heating systems. After you have your new furnace installed, check the air filter once per month and replace it when it gets dirty or at least every three months. A professional should inspect your furnace once per year to prevent inconvenient breakdowns, keep your indoor air quality high, and make sure your family stays comfortable. Moreover, neglecting maintenance could shorten your HVAC system’s life.

Griffith Energy Services has several convenient maintenance agreements to help you protect your investment. The Bronze Plan includes an annual tune-up with a 15 percent discount on parts and labor for repairs. The Gold Plan also provides most replacement parts for free. Maintaining your system regularly is a great way to keep your furnace efficient and in peak shape. For every year that you have a maintenance agreement, you can earn points for your next system. You can earn up to $500 towards a new furnace, a new air conditioner, a new air or geothermal heat pump, or a new boiler. 

Griffith Energy Services has more than 100 years of experience working with HVAC. We’re experienced with Carrier and Trane systems, and we also work with Regal Warm Air Furnaces, Columbia Boiler Co., and Climate Master Geothermal Heat Pumps. We can answer all your questions about buying a new furnace and help you choose, install, maintain, and repair the best system for your home. Call us any time at 888-474-3391 for expert service. We dispatch vehicles from 12 different locations across five states to best meet your heating and other HVAC needs.

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